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There is a long and controversial debate based on the issues of medical marijuana and its effect on the human body. The reasons for the arguments are various, including personal beliefs, religion, health, habits and others. The history of drug use dates back to the ancient times. Marijuana treatment has been used for more than 4000 years. It is believed that the substance brings psychological and spiritual relief to a user. In addition, marijuana is considered to be an effective medicine that has a variety of benefits. The most important factor that supports the medical use of marijuana is not only a proven way of treatment, but also the only way to release a patient from extreme pain. These and many other factors prove the reliability and effectiveness of marijuana use in the sphere of medicine.
Since ancient times, the drug is believed to be the most therapeutically active and beneficial substance (Cohen et al.). Ancient India writings confirm the recognition of marijuana’s psychoactive properties. Centuries ago, doctors used it for a variety of ailments and illnesses, including insomnia, gastrointestinal disorders, headaches and others (“Medical Marijuana for Pain and Depression”). Marihuana users agree that the over-dose may cause harm to the human body. However, they are convinced that there are more issues that should be addressed, as their harm is limitless. The history of marijuana shows that the substance has a potential therapeutic value and may be used in treating Tourette syndrome. It is also believed that marijuana may lessen the effects of Alzheimer’s disease. Moreover, cannabidiol is used to slow the process of cell damage in diabetes mellitus type 1.
Another significant factor that is mentioned by marijuana users is that the substance brings psychological and spiritual relief (“Medical Marijuana for Pain and Depression”). It reveals a person’s true self and true direction, as well as uncovers inner confusion. Marijuana’s effect is relaxing and energizing at the same time. It helps to think more efficiently and more clearly afterwards (Cohen).
In addition, people belonging to the first group claim that marijuana prohibition is against the personal freedom. They believe that countries are responsible for ensuring respect of the individual will and right of self-determination. Moral beliefs are the only subject of discussion regarding the marijuana use. Nevertheless, marijuana may not only be addictive. It may cause infertility, lead to harder drug use, injure the immune system, lungs and brain as well as impair driving ability. It should be noted that different medical treatments may lead to addiction and have a number of side effects.
Medical marijuana users claim the drug to be the best treatment for patients with specific symptoms associated with certain serious medical conditions, for people suffering terminal illnesses with a prognosis of a life span less than 12 months and for those who have symptoms associated with a medical circumstance, which cannot be relieved by conventional treatments (McCaffery and Vourakis). Medical marijuana is an effective and safe method to treat the symptoms of pain, cancer (slows down the progress of some cancer types), glaucoma (reduces the internal eye pressure, pain and slows or even stops the condition), AIDS (reduces loss of appetite, the nausea, vomiting), epilepsy (prevents epileptic seizures), multiple sclerosis (relieves muscle pain, tremors and unsteadiness) and other conditions. In addition, the drug treats seizure disorders, weight loss and loss of appetite caused by chronic illness such as nerve pain or HIV as well as Crohn’s disease. A cannabinoid found in marijuana binds to the endocannabinoid receptors of the brain. As a result, a person experiences the reduction of anxiety and pain.
Numerous researches have proven the effectiveness of marijuana in mental health issues and mood disorders, including clinical depression, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder and panic disorder. The drug is also used to treat hypertension, constipation, premenstrual syndrome and alcohol hangovers (McCaffery and Vourakis). Thus, marijuana is widely used in medicine. Its benefits cannot be argued. It helps in cases where traditional treatment fails. Medical marijuana is taken by thousands of patients around the globe, but the substance cannot be freely accessed. The appropriate use of marijuana provides patients with an opportunity to reduce or even eliminate the use of opiates, including Ritalin, pain killers, sleeping pills, tranquilizers, anti-depressants and other psychiatric medicines.
Patients using marijuana to relax and feel relieved may sometimes treat the state of anxiousness as the one associated with depression. It is important to know that marijuana helps patients with insomnia and can improve appetite. Better pain control with marijuana can substantially reduce chronic pain that is related to depression. Marijuana cannot be considered as the main treatment of most above mentioned diseases and conditions, but sometimes it is an inevitable part of the treatment process. A great number of people have found marijuana an essential part of their therapeutic regimes during the treatment of various serious diseases. A scheduled use of the substance does not usually cause any side effects. Hence, patients find relief with the substance that is more and more often treated as a necessary medical drug.
It is believed that people who use marijuana on a regular basis have lower levels of depressive symptoms than those who have never tried it. People who have been consuming the drug for a week feel less depressed, have fewer somatic complaints and better health conditions. Thus, the drug may prevent serious consequences, including suicide (Denson and Earleywine).
There have been a lot of arguments concerning the legalization of drugs. Moreover, drugs are still used for medical purposes but only if they are prescribed. Every year, the population of those who use marijuana is getting younger. It makes the problem more dangerous and threatening as teenagers who are involved in drug abuse are the future of any nation. However, the use of marijuana nowadays is often associated with religious purposes. Rastafari movement members, citizens of Jamaica, were the first recorded people who used marijuana in a religious setting. The event dates back to the second millennium BC. Moreover, there are many other religious groups that used marijuana or viewed the substance as a sacrament, including the Germanic pagans, ancient Chinese groups, and Hindus (Rucke).
Religious groups have distinct views on marijuana legalization. Many religiously unaffiliated Americans support the idea of marijuana legalization. At the same time, 58% of white mainline Protestants favor the substance legalization, while only 29% of white evangelical Protestants are of the same opinion. Almost 50% of American Catholics follow the same trends (Goodman).
As more and more people became addicted to drugs and there were a lot of cases of drug abuse, in the 1970s, the US Government passed the laws, which tightened the prescription of drugs and cut its production by 90%. The War on Drugs was officially declared in 1971 by President Richard Nixon. At that time drug abuse was considered as the major enemy in the United States. Nixon fought demand fronts and drug supply. He was the initiator of the first federal funding of treatment programs. The President’s mistake was launching an interdiction effort in Mexico.
In 1973, he boosted the creation of the Drug Enforcement Agency. Mexico was pressured to regulate its marijuana growers. Thus, the US had to spend millions of dollars to close the border. Nixon achieved his goal, but Columbia replaced Mexico very quickly and became America’s supplier of marijuana. Since the prohibition of the drug trade the US efforts resulted in the rerouting of the international drug supplies and drugs began to enter the United States through the sea, air, and land, making it impossible to stop smuggling due to the constantly increasing demand (McMahon and Largen).
In 1996, marijuana was legalized in California for medical use. Anyway, medical distributors of marijuana were arrested by the Governments of Bush and Obama (Head). The surveys show that 51% of Americans support marijuana legalization, while 44% are against it.
Analysis of arguments provided by the opponents and proponents of marijuana legalization has outlined the following supporting statements:
- People who use marijuana do it according to their free will. All people should be sovereign over their own lives. The Government should respect the rights of all individuals as it is an essential precondition for free and prosperous nation. The Government has no right to limit their actions if they do not pose any significant threat.
- Marijuana legalization would bring financial benefits to the country. Marijuana legalization would help the Government save a lot of money that is spent on different projects and programs to eliminate the substance use. For example, in the USA, all Government levels participate in the War on Drugs. It was also stated that the failing War on Drugs has caused increased costs, which have to be paid by the community while considering illegal drugs (The Network of Reform Groups). Money spent on imprisoning people, involved in the drug business, and providing them with all necessary supplies in jails, could be directed by the Government on welfare benefits and social needs. Billions of dollars could have been spent on more important problems if marijuana was legal.
- Legalization of drugs would enable to sue the manufacturing companies and markets. It would help increase the producer liability forcing health standards. In addition, marijuana legalization would allow better regulation. For example, alcohol beverages are marked with the alcohol amount, cigarettes have warning, and legal drugs will be produced with the list of active and inactive ingredients. Hence, drugs that are illegal now could be sold with all warnings.
- Prohibition does not influence people’s decision to use marijuana. In addition, it causes a lot of problems. There are some theories proving that drug prohibition might even increase drug use. One of the unintended effects of marijuana prohibition is the extreme popularity of the substance in the US high schools. It is explained by the drug availability. It is easier for high school students to buy marijuana than alcohol, as soon as the latter is legal and sold only after they are 21. Marijuana dealers do not care about the age, they sell the drug to all people who have money to buy it. Thus, society should focus on youth education, appropriate programs to keep children away from drugs and help those who are involved in drug use. It can be concluded that proper education and treatment are the best ways to address the drug problem.
- Marijuana legalization would reduce the level of violence in the streets. The American Government spends almost ninety billion dollars annually for the War on Drugs. It is almost as much as earned by mafia. Hence, drug legalization will take away the mafia’s income leading to the reduction of street crimes and gang related felonies. It is also believed that drug legalization, marijuana in particular, might decrease the level of corruption and terrorism in the world.
- Drug legalization would create a new industry of legal drugs, providing people with a number of workplaces. It has been estimated that nearly100,000 jobs and 60,000 retailers could emerge from the industry.
- Marijuana is widely used for medical purposes. 20 states have already legalized medical marijuana. The most important factor that supports the medical use of marijuana is not only a useful way of treatment, but also the only way to release a patient from extreme pain. These and many other factors prove the helpfulness and effectiveness of marijuana use in the sphere of medicine (“Medical Marijuana for Pain and Depression”). The drug is dangerous only when it is taken without medical control and in large quantities. Only patients, their relatives and doctors can actually realize and understand the importance of medical marijuana use. Those who have never struggled with a life threatening illness, often do not realize how debilitating the resulting depression can be. Time that patients have to spend struggling with sickness can wear them down. In addition, long days can suppress patient’s appetites and slowly destroy their desire to live (McMahon).
- Some religions support the use of marijuana. For example, Rastafarians, Hindus, and Buddhists use marijuana during their religious and spiritual ceremonies (Rucke).
- It is believed that Government drugs will be safer, of better quality and free from potential toxins. Furthermore, the Government will monitor the substance strengths to avoid the overdose. In addition, drugs would not be as expensive as they are now because their manufactuing process will not be so dangerous (McMahon and Largen).
The Bill of Rights guaranteed the rights concerning speech, religion, search, and seizure. The Government cannot meddle with these rights. Marijuana prohibition substantially violates the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Eighth, Ninth, and Tenth Amendments. According to the First Amendment, the Government should not make any laws about speech, religion, press, or assembly and the marijuana has been used for religious purposes. The Fourth Amendment provides Americans with privacy and security against unreasonable seizures and searches. However, in case of even a tiny bit suspicious the police is authorized to search people’s cars and houses. If a person looks like the marijuana smoker it does not give any right to a policeman to pull him over and check inside of his car without any reason.
The Fifth Amendment claims that citizens have the right to be deprived of their property only according to the process of law. The Supreme Court accepts random drug testing, however, it is unconstitutional. According to the Sixth Amendment, citizens have the right to speedy public trials. However, there are court cases that do not follow the Constitution. In some cases, medical marijuana use has been offered to a plea-bargain for several years. In addition, defendants are not allowed to mention the medical necessity of marijuana. The Seventh Amendment gives citizens the right to trial by jury. Marijuana defendants have the same right but the court threats them if they plea to the charge. Many district attorneys and judges prefer not to get much involved into jury trials and for this reason they tend to manipulate people to reject their constitutional rights. It is against the Constitution and is a crime.
The Eighth Amendment prohibits excessive bail, punishments, and fines. People have been constantly sent to jail for many years, without a possibility of parole, as well as homes and properties are often seized for the marijuana growing. It violates the Eighth Amendment. Actually, criminals inclusind killers, rapists and murders rarely sentenced to life imprisonment without parole, but marijuana entrepreneurs do. Hence, life imprisonment for growing marijuana is against the Constitution and violates human rights. According to the Ninth Amendment, Americans have the rights that are not provided in the Bill of Rights but, which are additionally provided by the Constitution. It does not mean that citizens have limitation concerning those rights. The Tenth Amendment suggests the idea that any legal powers that are not granted by the Constitution to the federal Government and are not prohibited by the state Governments are reserved to the people and the states represent them. It was already mentioned that California allowed medical use of marijuana. However, the federal Government has meddled with the internal affairs of the state and it violates the Tenth Amendment.
The Government should reconsider its treatment of marijuana use. It should spend more money on giving aid, appropriate education, and support to those who suffer from drug addiction. Other ways of reducing marijuana use should be found out. People, especially those who experience or experienced drug abuse, should be provided with special support. For example, a teenager brought up in a family with drugs history and lack of pro-social skills can rapidly move to serious dependency. Educational sector should provide better educational programs for pupils and students to take all possible steps in tackling the growing problem. The production of the anti-drug advertisement should also be boosted. Supervision programs for parents would be a positive step towards decrease of drug use among teenagers.
As community is the first social contact for people have limited family support and live beyond their families, it should be provided with immense support and supervision. It could be reasonable to invest into activities, which can prevent the youth from using drugs. The most successful efforts of drug use prevention are those, which are targeted at certain at-risk groups. It is important to offer treatment services to those who are in need and respect the human rights of those who use drugs.
Thus, marijuana should be legalized as it is the best way to control the substance overdose, inform people about the consequences of drug use, keep them aware of all active and inactive ingredients of the drug, and decrease the level crimes in the streets. In addition, legalization of marijuana will bring financial and economic benefits to the country. Hence, people should not be deprived of the constitutional rights.